A little late but I decided to write a quick review of my favourite books that I read in 2018. I enjoyed these for a multitude of reasons. Some are fantastic historical and political texts, while others are focused on mental health, meditation, and personal development. All of which I found compelling and interesting. If you get the chance I highly recommend giving these a read:
By Aayan Hirsi Ali
Aayan’s Infidel is a book that can inspire, enrage, and intrigue anyone who reads it. I knew of her before this reading but finally decided to dive into the details of her unbelievable life. Her story unveils the dark and dangerous realities of growing up in a third world country, one immersed in tribalism, conservative Islam, and conflict. Some suggest her portrayal of Islam is one sided while others reiterate that all she does is describe her own experience and personal story. She is controversial but none would dispute that her story is incredible. This book touches on a variety of modern topics from religion to feminism and is a must read.
By David Frum
Frum’s Trumpocracy was an early warning at the dangers inherent within Trump’s sphere of influence. His concern of Trump ranges from incompetence to dishonesty. He attacks Trump’s enablers and outlines a bleak picture of what America is descending into by electing a person who seems to not care about the basic principles of a liberal democracy. Frum’s concern for American values and the future resulted in this scalding must read by the Republican and former Bush speechwriter.
Letter to a Christian Nation
By Sam Harris
Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation is a beautifully written document which reads as a letter sent to a young American Christian. In this text Harris holds nothing back as he criticizes religion, Christianity, and the absurd nature of conservatism in America. Harris touches on the hypocrisies, delusions, and the dangers of Christianity in the modern world. A powerful and important read which sheds light on ideas and topics that many take for granted.
The Trial of Henry Kissinger
By Christopher Hitchens
I’m still not done mourning the loss of Hitchens and texts like this one are why. In this book Hitchens takes down one of America’s most powerful and influential politicians. The text grazes over a variety of controversies, scandals, and potential war crimes surrounding Kissinger. My fault with the text is that this safari of topics never dives deeply into any one area but rather skims past historical events at a dizzying pace leaving you wanting more. At the same time this collection of arguments, if even half true, paints a bleak picture of Kissinger and raises serious questions to his criminality.
The Moral Landscape
By Sam Harris
The Moral Landscape in my opinion is exactly the type of book that we need right now. Western civilization is in the process of shedding its old religious and ideological shackles and entering a new realm of science based human values. While some argue that values and meaning are impossible without the supernatural humanists like Sam Harris argue that we can in fact make moral and ethical claims based on science and that we can also make objective claims about the ethics of our cultures and societies. Increasingly I view my own philosophy in a lens similar to this one and I highly recommend this book to all. This is one of the best books that I have read describing how we can create and find meaning, ethics, and values, in our modern world.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck
By Mark Manson
This book was recommended to me many times but I was always hesitant to read it. It seemed childish and some elitism probably crept in but once I sat down to read it I found it rich and compelling. I now view this book as a fantastic intro to self help and upgrading your perspective on personal growth and living a good life. This book is blunt, humorous, and surprisingly deep. It’s worth a read and especially so if you have not spent much time reading self-help and personal growth literature.
Guns, Germs, & Steel
By Jared Diamond
This text is unbelievably researched but also a bit difficult to get through. Diamond writes like a classical historian and at times even a history lover as myself can get lost in the drone. However if you tough through the repetitive dates and details you’ll find yourself in an incredibly rich and colourful text. Diamond covers the rise and fall of civilizations and finds references points to help understand how humans flourish and why some parts of the world developed more quickly than others. The book is a bit dated but worth the read for anyone curious about our species and the growth of civilizations.
By David Corn & Michael Isikoff
I’ve read numerous texts on Trump at this point and I always read them with a grain of salt. A book like Russian Roulette makes bold claims and the evidence can at times be questionable but if even a fraction of it is true then the information is incredible. Corn and Isikoff cover the connections between Trump and Russia including years of contact surrounding Miss Universe, Trump Tower Moscow, and other business investments. The book is jaw dropping and offers a compelling narrative into the Trump/Russia connection.
By Cal Newport
I read a bunch of self-help books this year but Cal Newport’s Deep Work stuck out to me. This is a very light read and is easy to understand. Many self-help books give advice to improve your life but few give tangible goals and steps to take. Deep Work outlines exactly how to be more productive, how to accomplish goals, and how to get work done. I personally can tell that I have benefited from this book and it has helped me become more focused and productive. This is a definite must read for all.
Extreme Ownership: How US Navy Seals Lead and Win
By Jocko Willink & Leif Babin
Jocko and Leif are both high ranking US Navy Seals that fought in some of Iraq’s most dangerous conflicts. In this text they explain how Navy Seals teach leadership, ownership, and discipline. Then they take these values and show how they can apply to business and to your daily life. I was truly impressed by this book and it has helped shape my own leadership style when working in management. It’s impossible to read this book and not feel inspired to get more done, be a strong leader for others, and to hold yourself accountable for your own success and failures.
Why Buddhism is True
By Robert Wright
The last book I wanted to recommend is Why Buddhism is True by Robert Wright. Wright is an atheist and does not recommend Buddhism’s more esoteric teachings but rather looks at the core secular philosophy of Buddhism and compares it to what science, psychology, and our modern understandings have taught us. Wright argues that the core tenants of Buddhism paint an accurate picture of our human minds. He describes how meditation can benefit us and argues that Buddhism is the most accurate philosophy for understanding our well being. I was actually in the middle of writing a book similar to this one when I read Wright’s text and basically had to stop because Wright did such a phenomenal job capturing all that I wanted to say and then some. Books like this one will increasingly become more relevant and salient in the West as we come to a more rich understanding of our own minds and well being. Definitely buy this book.
I read a variety of texts in 2018 but these I have highlighted and recommend to all. They are worth your money, worth your time, I hope that you get as much out of them as I did.
By Daniel Govedar (Published January 2019)